This is a favorite quote from the book, Zen Training. Anyone who has ever meditated deeply at home, in the mountains, or on retreat has probably had these feelings.
“On one occasion of my own practice, nearing deep samadhi, I happened to notice that the stage of my mind was quietly turning and a new scene was appearing. In this new scene no wandering thought popped up its head; there was absolute stillness and silence, as if one had landed on the Moon.”
From a translation of the Tao Te Ching:
The master, by residing in the Tao (the Way),
sets an example for all beings.
Because he doesn’t display himself,
people can see his light.
Because he has nothing to prove,
people can trust his words.
Because he doesn’t know who he is,
people recognize themselves in him.
(I recommend that third stanza in particular for people who are interested in consulting.)
“How can we prevent our thoughts from wandering? How can we learn to focus our attention on one thing?”
“The answer is that we cannot do it with our brain alone; the brain cannot control its thoughts by itself. The power to control the activity of our mind comes from the body, and it depends critically on posture and breathing.”
~ From the book, Zen Training, by Katsuki Sekida
On the recent drive back to Colorado I listened to Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. In the book, The Lady Chablis talked about how much the estrogen shots affected her, mentally and physically — her thoughts, such as who she was attracted to, and her physical attributes.
I’ve often thought about how our thoughts and behavior are affected by our hormones. That’s one reason I like meditation: The farther you get away from the physical body and chemically-influenced brain, the more you can figure out who you are.
One day during a speech Hakuin said, “They say there’s a pure land where everything is only mind, and that there’s a Buddha of light in your own body. Once that Buddha of light appears, mountains, rivers, earth, grass, trees, and forests suddenly glow with a great light. To see this, you have to look inside your own heart.”
An old innkeeper who had meditated for many years was sitting in the audience, and when she heard this, she felt a strange understanding of his words. She later told her family, “I feel that happiness is as near as my skin.” When she was awake and asleep she kept his words alive: “Inside your own heart. Trees shine with a great light.”
There are many nice cartoons/illustrations in Eckhart Tolle’s book Guardians of Being: Spiritual Teachings from Our Dogs and Cats, and this “Shtop Thinking” cartoon is one of my current favorites. (The book is a collaborative effort between Mr. Tolle and Patrick McDonnell, artist/illustrator/cartoonist who may be most well known for his “Mutts” cartoons.)
Sometimes during meditation strange things happen. As just one example, this morning I was enjoying a deep meditation, just focusing on the breath ... focusing on the breath ... and suddenly I was standing on a street corner. I looked around briefly, then thought, “What the heck just happened,” and with that thought I returned to my meditation.
For many years I struggled with how to combine two of my main interests, Zen and work. I had read that the Zen mind is the mind before thinking, so it seemed like Zen and work must be totally unrelated. But over time I came to understand phrases like, “When working, just work.”
This article contains a collection of quotes that have been helpful to me in understanding the relationship between Zen and work. Please note that I don’t wrap each quote in double quotes, and I also try to attribute each quote to the correct author/speaker. If you’re interested in how to combine Zen and work, I hope you’ll find them helpful.
“Only open your mouth if what you are going to say is more beautiful than silence.”
~ Zen quote